Hirudotherapy (Medical Leech Therapy)

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Medical Leech Treatment

Leech therapy has been recorded as far back as the 5th century BC. Leeches were first used medicinally in Europe in the 15th century. The popularity of leech therapy spread throughout the world in the 19th century.

During this period, leech farms and production facilities were established in many parts of Europe. Leech therapy is still used today in conjunction with modern medical methods, and the applications are performed by experienced and qualified doctors, which helps to reduce the risk of side effects.

What Is Hirudotherapy?

Leech, whose medical name is Hirudo Medicinalis and is a member of the ring worm group, has been used for medical purposes for more than centuries. Hirudotherapy is a treatment method performed by placing leeches on the points determined in the body and the creature bites these areas and releases its bioactive secretion to the area.

The bioactive secretion released by leeches stands out with 4 important features:

  • Muscle relaxant (myorelaxant),
  • Anticoagulant (blood thinner),
  • Immunomodulator,
  • Microcirculation regulator.

Leeches attach to human skin or mucous membranes and begin to suck blood. During this time, they release a bioactive substance called hirudin through their salivary glands. This secretion prevents blood from clotting and thus causes bleeding.

The secretion also contains a histamine-like substance that opens the capillaries. The anesthetic in the secretion reduces or prevents pain formation. The combination of leech therapy with modern medical methods today has minimized potential side effects.

Leech therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of diseases, including osteoarthritis (osteoarthritis) and other degenerative joint diseases, varicose veins in the legs, and tendon inflammation.

In Which Cases Is Hirudotherapy Used?

Medical leech therapy, which helps to remove excess and toxic blood in the body, is used in the treatment of a wide variety of patients from colds to cancer, ulcers to diseases such as heart failure. It is possible to list the main conditions in which hirudotherapy can be used as follows:

  • Varicose veins or venous insufficiency,
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other rheumatic diseases,
  • Migraine and various tension headaches,
  • To restore blood flow after a severed limb is sewn back on,
  • Various eye diseases,
  • Deformities or osteoarthritis in the joints,
  • Muscle pain,
  • Spinal problems in the neck, back, or lower back,
  • Chronic hepatitis and liver diseases,
  • Problems such as dizziness and tinnitus,
  • Degenerative nervous system diseases such as MS, ALS, stroke, or Parkinson’s,
  • Skin problems such as eczema, chronic skin diseases, psoriasis, urticaria, and acne,
  • Immune system diseases or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Hirudotherapy is used to treat a wide variety of diseases, including the above. On the other hand, it is recommended that hirudotherapy not be used in patients with bleeding or clotting problems such as hemophilia, patients with severe anemia, patients taking blood thinners. It should also not be applied in pregnant or breastfeeding women and before surgical procedures.

How Is Hirudotherapy Applied?

There is no need to prepare for leech therapy. However, chemical smells such as perfume or detergent can make leech application difficult. Similarly, the application area being sweaty can also make it difficult for leeches to attach.

The area is sterilized by the doctor who will perform the application, and then the leech is attached to the area. The patient feels the moment the leech bites for the first time during the application.

However, since the leech secretes an anesthetic substance, patients do not feel pain afterwards. The application takes approximately 20 to 60 minutes.

The leech usually releases the area it is attached to on its own, but it can be released by the doctor if necessary. A bandage is applied to stop the bleeding at the end of the procedure.

Things To Know About Hirudotherapy

Hirudotherapy is a treatment method that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of diseases. In addition to the information we have provided above, here are some important points to keep in mind about hirudotherapy:

  • There may be itching and redness in the areas where leech therapy is applied, and in some cases bleeding can last more than 4 hours.
  • There is a perception in society that leeches suck out the “bad blood” from the body, but this is not true. The leech only releases the bioactive substances in its secretion into the human body, and these substances enter the bloodstream.
  • Scars may remain in the application area for several months.

To ensure the effectiveness of the application, the leeches used must be leeches from production facilities approved by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Each leech is single-use and must be disposed of in accordance with medical waste regulations after the application is complete. Finally, the application must be performed by a qualified and experienced physician.

Comments (2)

Dear Doc. Dr. Saliha,

I am a 47 year old woman from Hungary who has been living with a uterine fibroid nearly for 20 years since I had an AB. I tried to reduce it with a speacial diet but it has been increasing slowly. Fortunately, I have never had any heavy bleeding or painful intercourse or difficulties in urinating but now I feel some pressure in the abdomen. It is big and now it is visible ( like a baby boom ) . It is worth mentioning I had several urinary tract infections.
Now my period stopped some month ago.
The size of it is 10×7 cm.
Would it be useful to start leech therapy? Woud it be efficient?
What kind of results can I gain with the therapy?
In Hungary I could not find any doctors or medical praxis. Here everybody can do leech therapy without any studies. I need a certified leech therapist.

Thank you your answer

Katalin Fekete

Doç. Dr. Saliha Eroğlu Demir

You can organize a meeting with the doctor for examination and treatment. You can ask him all the details you are curious about during the interview. You can contact salihademireroglu@gmail.com from our e-mail address for an appointment.

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